Scotland’s Parliament passed marriage equality on Tuesday, making it the 16th nation to establish equal marriage rights in full with a 105-18 vote. As expected, Catholic bishops sustained their objections. Additionally, a new ruling on adoption will muddy the victory for LGBT advocates. National Catholic Reporter reports further:
“Lawmakers had rejected pleas from the Catholic church to oppose the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill and also resisted attempts to amend it…
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said in a Wednesday statement emailed to Catholic News Service that the bishops were ‘disappointed’ by the outcome of the vote.”
The Scottish bishops strongly opposed marriage equality when debate began in 2012, pledging an all out fight against any proposed law and made a failed attempt to put marriage equality to voters in a referendum. Their opposition centered around Cardinal Keith O’Brien, once named “Bigot of the Year” by Stonewall, a UK LGBT organization, who called equal marriage rights a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”
However, O’Brien resigned in February 2013 after allegations of sexual misconduct, which he apologized for later amid the fallout. The Vatican ordered O’Brien out of Scotland, and his resignation muted the Scottish bishops’ opposition to pro-LGBT legislation, consigning it to government meetings. The new law does include religious exemptions, with the option for churches to ‘opt-in’ in offering same-gender marriages.
In a related story, the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel has ruled that a Catholic adoption agency, St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society, is allowed to discriminate against same-gender couples who wish to become foster and adoptive parents. This decision reverses an earlier judgement which declared that not allowing same-gender couples to adopt was discriminatory. Since sexual orientation became a protected class in non-discrimination laws, some faith-based adoption agencies in the United Kingdom have launched legal battles to provide services to only heterosexual married couples. An article in the National Catholic Reporter notes:
“But the appeals panel ruled that St. Margaret’s was a fully Catholic institution bound to operate by the teaching of the Catholic church and that “indirect discrimination” against gay couples was a legally permissible consequence of its charitable work…
“An 85-page ruling by the appeal panel, published Friday, concluded that St. Margaret’s was not breaking the law by assessing only married couples and single people as potential foster parents and adopters…
“The ruling added that indirect discrimination against gay couples was permissible because it represented a ‘proportionate means’ of obtaining a legitimate aim, allowed under the terms of the 2010 Equality Act.”
What will happen to this ruling now that same-gender couples can be legally married is unknown, but it seems imprudent for the Catholic Church to continue fighting for the right to discriminate and depriving children of loving families.
Marriages will begin for Scots in July, following up on weddings in England and Wales set to begin in March.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry